Recognizing the importance of natural burial, the National Funeral Directors Association has a green burial certification program. However, the Green Burial Council is the non-profit organization that sets the standards for natural burial (certifying cemeteries, products and home funeral guides as well as funeral directors) and also provides information for all of us.
The website of the Green Burial Council has more articulate and thorough information than I could possibly cover here, including a description, responses to questions responses to questions, and a short planning guide.
Grave Matters, by Mark Harris, is the book that brought natural burial to the attention of many people.
You can read thorough and interesting descriptions of U.S. natural burial cemeteries in Natural Burial Cemetery Guide, a book by Ann Hoffner, as well as a range of topics in her blog, such as stories about her visits to cemeteries, delving into relevant science, and reporting on natural burial events.
Hoffner’s post Ramsey Creek Preserve, America’s First Modern Natural Burial Cemetery will give you lovely visuals of Ramsey Creek as well as its story.
A half hour documentary named Dying Green is one of my favorite videos introducing natural burial through the story of Ramsey Creek.
Here’s my short overview of natural burial:
There are 3 essential elements of natural burial:
No vaults/grave liners
A non-toxic, biodegradable coffin, casket or shroud
A number of people hear these details of natural burial and respond – isn’t this just like the traditional Jewish way of doing burial? YES! It’s the traditional Jewish way of burying someone, and also the way Muslims and a number of other traditions care for their dead. (Two caveats- caskets can have a wood base but still use toxic finishes and adhesives. Vaults/grave liners are sometimes used)
When hearing about natural burial most people tend to respond that it just makes sense. We used to do this here in America, and in fact, most of the world has never stopped using natural burial.
But Green Burial Council statistics tell us that now, here in America, every year we bury:
-more than enough metal to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge
-enough concrete that we could build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit
-enough embalming fluid to fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools
We’ve gotten a bit far away from the recognition of the reality of “ashes to ashes, dust-dust”, haven’t we?
Green burial not only returns us to more of a recognition of the cycle of life and death, a conservation level cemetery also provides a way to preserve land and habitat. What a wonderful way to honor those who’ve died and to be able to spend time in beautiful surroundings when visiting them.
No matter what cemetery you intend to use, it’s worthwhile asking if they will do a natural burial. Sometimes cemeteries will, even if they usually do more conventional burial. In addition, asking them lets them know that people care, as does asking crematories if they have emissions filters.
Natural burial is kinder to the earth, and kinder to us emotionally:
-If you’ve tried to be careful about your impact on the environment while you’re alive, it’s in keeping with your values to choose natural burial.
-Even if you don’t have children in the next generation of your family, you can leave a legacy for ALL children by caring for the environment in this way.
Like in many areas of the ways we live our lives, we just haven’t known the impact of what we’ve been doing. But now that we know, it’s urgent that we do things differently.
In the next few days:
Review information from the Green Burial Council https://greenburialcouncil.org and write down your choices about this in your planning guide.
Step #1 STRUCTURE IT IN
Step #2 find and use a PLANNING GUIDE
Step #3 learn from the FUNERAL CONSUMERS ALLIANCE
Step #4 draw upon INSIGHTS from bereavement research
Step #5 Find RITUALS that resonate with you
Step #6 Consider NATURAL BURIAL choices
Thursday, May 10 – Home funerals